Principals at the Toronto District School Board are being sent home on paid administrative leave – with salaries that can run upward of $120,000 a year – far more often and for longer stretches than their counterparts at other Ontario public boards, according to data from the Ontario Principals’ Council.
The lengthy home assignments occur when principals are investigated following allegations of misconduct. It costs the TDSB millions of dollars and the investigations are done with little to no transparency, principals say. School boards are struggling with staff shortages; the TDSB must bring in temporary staff or retirees at an additional cost to fill in the gaps.
One principal has been home for almost three years.
In another instance, the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC) wrote in a letter to the TDSB in October, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, that an investigation into a principal’s conduct was complete and that the investigator had submitted a final report to the board in July.
The principal had not seen the report nor heard from the TDSB. She remained at home three months later.
Patsy Agard, president of the OPC, worries that administrators at boards across the province are sent home, and held there, irrespective of the seriousness of the allegations.
“We’re not saying the investigation should be eliminated. We recognize the need to investigate situations when allegations arise,” Ms. Agard said.
“What we are saying is that there are better ways of proceeding once you initiate an investigation, that assignments to home should not be the first resort that school boards are looking for.”
The data, provided by the OPC, showed that over the last three years, the TDSB placed 55 principals on home assignment for an average of eight months.
Two principals were kept home for more than two years – the only English public board in Ontario with such a lengthy home assignment.
The OPC supports administrators in the province’s 31 English public boards, which are responsible for 1.3 million students. The average length of a home assignment across all 31 boards was 3.7 months, according to OPC data.
The average length of a home assignment at the Peel District School Board and the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board was 3.5 months, with 14 and six administrators sent home over the same three-year period, respectively.
TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird acknowledged that “in some situations” the length of time to complete an investigation is long, and that the board was working to address this issue. He said there are about 12 administrators currently on home assignment and “we are working to resolve these complaints as soon as possible.”
“TDSB takes allegations made against staff very seriously and has a duty – legally and morally – to thoroughly investigate each incident regardless of the role of the employee,” Mr. Bird said in an e-mail statement.
“When very serious allegations are made against a staff member, it is a matter of public confidence and all stakeholders expect that we demonstrate due diligence and accountability especially with regard to human rights, workplace harassment and/or child abuse and neglect complaints.”
The issue confronting the TDSB and other school boards is how to handle an incident at a school and any allegations, particularly around racism, that may follow from families or staff.
Alana Hardy was the principal at what was formerly Queen Victoria Public School in the city’s west end. (The school was recently renamed Dr. Rita Cox – Kina Minogok Public School.) In April, 2020, three months after an unsigned racist letter was delivered to a member of the school staff and named several Black and racialized teachers, Ms. Hardy was moved to home assignment.
There were allegations against her of anti-Black racism.
She has remained at home.
In a letter to the TDSB in November, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe, the OPC outlined that the board conducted investigations despite having “overwhelming evidence” of the likely author of the letter, and “made it abundantly clear that Ms. Hardy had no involvement or connection to the letter.”
The OPC said the TDSB publicly implicated Ms. Hardy in how the situation at the school was handled, but never acknowledged that she was following the advice of her employer in addressing issues within the school.
“Instead, the board has described her actions – following the board’s direct instructions – as demonstrative of her perpetuation of systemic racism,” the letter stated, adding that Ms. Hardy “is being held as the scapegoat of a troubled system.”
Ms. Hardy declined to comment for fear of reprisal.
The Globe contacted several principals who were placed on home assignment, but they, too, declined to comment.
Mr. Bird at the TDSB said he couldn’t speak to specifics of the investigation into Ms. Hardy’s case, but that the board was pursuing returning her to work. He did not provide a timeline.
Lori Campbell, a principal who was also placed on home assignment for a year, said in an interview that she only found out a month after being removed from her school about allegations against her. Ms. Campbell worked at a school where a student died by suicide in June, 2019, in a case that was widely reported.
She was sent home in November, 2021. Among the allegations was that she neglected to act on claims that the child was being bullied.
Ms. Campbell and the OPC learned that the TDSB had received the investigator’s final report last July. In a letter to the school board in October, the OPC asked that Ms. Campbell return to work.
Ms. Campbell met with the TDSB four months after the final report was submitted and a year after she was sent home. Board staff refused to share the report’s findings with her, nor did they provide a letter to exonerate her, she said.
Mr. Bird did not answer questions as to why Ms. Campbell was not provided the report or a letter. He declined to speak about the investigation.
Ms. Campbell said she has not been allowed to return to her school.
“I have no proof [of exoneration] other than the people who were in the meeting and other than my direct family members who I told. There’s no proof. The optics that I was sent home and removed for one year makes me look guilty,” said Ms. Campbell, who has since been on a medical leave because of the stress of this situation.
“I struggle to understand the why. Why was this done to me?”